“The Mystery of Dr. Fu-Manchu” by Sax Rohmer (Arthur Henry “Sarsfield” Ward) appeared in 1913. It was the first of a trilogy that include “The Devil Doctor,” in 1916, and “The Si-Fan Mysteries” a year later. American readers may recognize these stories by different titles: “The Mystery of Dr. Fu-Manchu,” “The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu,” and “The Hand of Fu-Manchu.”
Dr. Fu-Manch was the bane of Nayland Smith who was something of a special agent for the British authorities. Fu-Manchu was portrayed as a master villain and a focal point of the “yellow peril.” Fu-Manchu tended to see himself as a Chinese patriot who desired China to take its rightful place in the world order.
In Chapter 10 of the first story, Fu-Manchu unleashes a death device against the famous British archeologist, Sir Lionel Barton. The infernal death mechanism is simply called the “green mist.”
It is initially inferred that it may be a living creature or some supernatural aberration. It is described thus:
“A sort of GREEN MIST, sir. He says it seemed to be alive. It moved over the floor, about a foot from the ground, going away from him and towards a curtain at the other end of the study.”
It was dark inside, but enough light came from the study–it’s really a drawing-room, by the way– as he’d turned all the lamps on, to give him another glimpse of this green, crawling mist.
The bodies of the green mist’s victims are described as horror-filled spectacles with puckered faces, blue lips, and drawn back lips. The victim’s limbs reside in contorted and unnatural positions.
Nayland Smith and Dr. Petrie discuss the possibility of the “green mist” having a supernatural origin.
“Sir Lionel Barton really believes that supernatural agencies were brought into operation by the opening of the high priest’s coffin. For my part, even if I believed the same, I should still maintain that Dr. Fu-Manchu controlled those manifestations.
In the end, the green mist turns out to be a form of chlorine gas.
I have read this story a dozen times. However, this last time I recalled previously thinking that the green mist was something akin to the green soul slaves seen in “The Mystic Mullah.”
This Doc Savage story appeared in the January 1935 issue and was the twenty-third published adventure. Pondering on this it seems entirely plausible that Lester Dent could have taken some inspiration from the Fu-Manchu story.
Some of the gimmicks used in “The Mystic Mullah” to create the illusion of a supernatural being were previously used in a Continental Op story. This was “The Dain Curse” by Dashiell Hammett which appeared in serial form in 1929.
Were the “green soul slaves” an evolution of the “Green Mist?” It is impossible to say with surety, but it is not unlikely. Several of the basic items used in “The Mystic Mullah” appeared in the Magazine section of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, on Sunday, April 15, 1934. It is only a small leap to expand upon the device used by Dr. Fu-Manchu. In the end, the individual reader will have to make the decision.